By Michael J. West | Published November 2023
Quite a bit of darkness both inside and outside drummer Mareike Wiening’s personal life went into the music of Reveal, her third recording. But that darkness doesn’t overwhelm the music. At nearly every turn, one finds rays (sometimes more) of hope emanating through the performances.
Indeed, the performances are the key aspects of that hope. “Declaration Of Truth,” for example, is an outwardly menacing tune in 5/4 that might have been much more ominous were it not for Glenn Zaleski’s lithe, skipping piano line and solo. (There’s even a brief moment where his left hand is a foreboding counterpoint to his more optimistic right.) Similarly, “Encore” is a feature for tenor saxophonist Rich Perry (though with a truly doleful opening solo from bassist Johannes Felscher), one that seems determined to soak him in pathos or regret. Yet there’s an indomitable spirit in his warm sax tone, continually suggesting that it will find its way out of the gloom surrounding it. Perry and Zaleski combine their positivities on “Old Beginning,” both acknowledging adversity yet refusing to surrender to it; here, they rope in guitarist Alex Goodman, whose solo begins wallowing in darker tones and ends by allowing in, if not full-on hope, then the possibility of it.
These evolving moods don’t function across the board. The slow “Choral Anthem” — which is not choral, but is one of three tunes with guest trumpeter Dave Douglas — is as forbidding and insular as this music gets. Nor is Wiening herself some sort of Pollyanna: Her tight ride-cymbal beat creates tension and prods like a nagging doubt. (Wiening is not an ostentatious drummer, but navigation of these tunes, as well as moments like the 30-second intro solo on the title track, betray some fearsome chops.) Yet the consistency with which the music and musicians keep finding the way forward through murky textures and atmospheres? That doesn’t happen by accident.